Morning Briefing: Is the mid-sized law firm on its way out?

Are the days numbered for mid-size law firms? … Former Ashurst chief resigns… Big Four accountancy firm and a charity enter the law business…Shoosmiths appoints new chair…

Is the mid-sized law firm on its way out?
With big law firms getting bigger, in-house teams retaining more work and small boutique firms filling the gaps, are we going to see the end of the mid-sized law firm? That’s the question raised by Basha Rubin, the CEO of Priori Legal, a US firm that connects businesses and lawyers. In an article for Forbes, Rubin suggests a few things that the medium sized law firm needs to consider. Firstly, specialising; finding a niche that would not be cost-effective for an in-house team and may not be a major focus of a big law firm. Using technology to cut overheads is also suggested along with alternative billing arrangements. Rubin forecasts that without making changes, the mid-size firms will be a dying breed.

Ousted Ashurst chief quits for US rival
The former senior partner at Ashurst has quit the London-based firm to join Gibson Dunn & Crutcher. Charlie Geffen lost out to Ben Tidswell in a partner vote for the firm’s chair last year, shortly after the merger with Australian firm Blake Dawson. He will leave the firm after 23 years as a partner, having started his career there. Joining him in the move to the Gibson Dunn is Mark Sperotto. The double hiring will boost the Los Angeles-based firm’s London team to 22 partners.

More alternative business structures licensed
Accountancy and services firms KPMG has been awarded an alternative business structure licence by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority. It’s the first of the ‘big four’ to be granted an ABS but it says it has no plans to launch a standalone law business. However, its new licence will mean that KPMG is able to offer its large client base a range of new legal services that would previously have been the domain of law firms. It’s not just the accountancy sector that is taking advantage of the change in regulations that allows non-lawyers to invest or own law firms as Aspire has just become the first charity to launch an ABS. Aspire Law is a joint venture between the spinal cord injuries charity and law firm Moore Blatch. It will be a social enterprise and will allow clients to keep 100 per cent of any damages awarded. The charity’s 50 per cent share of the venture’s profits will be reinvested into its charitable projects.

Shoosmiths elect new chair
Peter Duff, employment partner at Shoosmiths will become the firm’s chair for three years from next May, replacing Andrew Tubbs who has held the role for more than a decade. Duff has been with the firm for ten years having joined from Baker & McKenzie; he has headed the commercial team for the last five years.

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